Tag Archives: Wallace “Happy Hogan” Bray

Coast League Stories

5 Dec

Abe Kemp began working at newspapers in San Francisco in 1907, when he was 14 years old, and spent the next 62 years primarily at The San Francisco Examiner where he covered his two passions, baseball and horse racing.

kemp

Abe Kemp

Over the years he collected a number of stories of baseball on the West Coast.

Catcher Tubby Spencer hit just .127 in 21 games for the San Francisco Seals in 1913. Contemporaneous reports said Spencer wore out his welcome with manager Del Howard in Portland. Years later, Kemp said the decision to let Spencer go was made during a team stopover in Sonoma County, and not by Howard. Kemp said he saw:

“Spencer staggering down the highway at Boyes Hot Springs one morning and President/Owner Cal Ewing yelling at him, ‘Hey, ‘Tub,’ where are you going?’

“’I’m going for a little air,’ yelled back Tub.

“’Then keep going,’ shouted Ewing, ‘because you will need it. You’re through.’”

tubbyspencer

Tubby Spencer

Harry “Slim” Nelson was a mediocre left-handed pitcher and weak hitter who played a half a dozen years on the West Coast. Kemp told of witnessing him “hit a home run through the screen at Recreation Park” in San Francisco when Nelson was playing for the Oakland Oaks.

“(He) became so excited when he reached second base that he swallowed his cud of chewing tobacco. Later on the bench, Slim was asked how the home run felt and he replied ‘it would have felt a whole lot better if I could have cut it up into singles to last me the season.”

Kemp said when George Van Haltren made the switch from Oaks player to Pacific Coast League umpire in 1909 he told Kemp and umpire Jack McCarthy “umpiring would be easy…because he had so many friends,” throughout the league. Kemp said McCarty responded:

“You mean you had so many friends. You haven’t any now.”

McCarthy appears to have been correct. Van Haltren was criticized throughout his short time as a Coast League umpire, and became a West Coast scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates the following two seasons. Van Haltren made one more attempt as an umpire, joining the Northwestern League staff in 1912; he was no more successful, lasting only one season after incurring the season-long wrath of Seattle Siwashes owner Dan Dugdale who demanded Van Haltren not be retained for the 1913 season.

George Van Haltren

Another player who had similar training habits to Tubby Spencer, according to Kemp, was Charles “Truck Eagan. Kemp said he was with Vernon Tigers manager Wallace “Happy Hogan” Bray one day when Eagan played for the Tigers near the end of his career in 1909:

“Eagan, suffering from the effects of a bad night (told) manager Hap Hogan he was suffering from an attack of ptomaine poisoning.

‘”What did you eat’ the artful and suspicious Hogan asked.

“Eagan scratched his head a minute, then said guiltily, ‘It must have been the (bar) pretzels and herring, Hap.”

“Branding us as if we were a Band of Convicts”

1 Aug

When the directors of the Pacific Coast League (PCL) met in Los Angeles in January of 1912, The Los Angeles Examiner said the league would be introducing a new innovation:

“President (Allan) Baum said each player will be given a uniform bearing upon the left arm a number he will wear throughout the season.  On all score cards sold at games every man of each team will be named in consecutive order.”

The plan wasn’t immediately embraced.  The Portland Oregonian said several players on the Portland Beavers were against the idea, pitcher Frederick “Spec” Harkness said:

“Of course, I don’t like this branding us as if we were a band of convicts…Hap Hogan (Wallace “Happy Hogan” Bray, manager of the Vernon Tigers) must have been the man who got this freaky legislation past the magnates at Los Angeles for the numbers go nicely with Vernon’s convict suits.”

Frederick "Spec" Harkness

Frederick “Spec” Harkness

The idea was actually the inspiration of Oakland Oaks president Edward Walters.

Major League players and executives also objected to the idea, Tigers president Frank Navin was quoted in The Detroit Times:

“It is a 10-1 bet that the players would rather suffer salary cuts all along the line than be labeled like a bunch of horses.”

Despite early objections, PCL players eventually accepted the inevitable, even Harkness who caused a stir among superstitious teammates when he requested number thirteen.

Roscoe Fawcett, sportswriter of The Portland Oregonian said:

“(Harkness) has put superstition to rout by sending in a request for number 13 under the new Pacific Coast League system of placarding players.”

By March the numbering idea gained some acceptance, and the desire for number 13 had caught on; there was a competition for the number among the Portland Beavers.  The Oregonian said Harkness “now finds his claim disputed by Benny Henderson, Walter Doan and others.”

In the end Harkness (who was born on December 13) received the number.  Given the rampant superstitions of early 20th Century players, most teams simply didn’t issue number 13 to any player.  The only other player in the PCL reported to have worn the number was Oakland pitcher Harry Ables.

Harry Ables

Harry Ables

The PCL’s experiment in uniform numbers was largely unsuccessful.  The Oregonian said the armbands were too small and “cannot be read from 90 feet away.”

By the end of the season, Vernon manager Hogan and Portland manager Walter “Judge” McCredie both of whom enthusiastically supported the numbers, were of the opinion that “the present trial has been a fizzle.”

The biggest criticism of the experiment was the failure of the system to achieve its chief goal, “numbering the men did not help out the sale of scorecards.”

Numbers were eliminated before the 1913 season and the PCL did not use uniform numbers again until the early 1930s.

Assumed Names–Happy Hogan

11 Jan
Wallace Bray 1890s

Wallace Bray 1890s

Some players became so closely associated with the name they adopted that their real name takes a century to catch up.  Wallace Louis Bray came from a prominent family in Santa Clara, California, and like many players at the turn of the 20th Century chose to play under an assumed name to spare the family the shame of having produced a professional ballplayer.  Baseball Reference and other sources still list him by his assumed name.

Bray went by the name Wallace Bray while playing baseball at Santa Clara University (other contemporary sources said he also attended the University of the Pacific)—one of his coaches was Major League pitcher Joe Corbett.  (There is some confusion because there is another player with the surname Hogan, Major Leaguer Willie Hogan attended Santa Clara seven years after Bray and also played in the Pacific Coast League at the same time and he was also sometimes called “Happy,” but Hogan was his given name).

Bray became Wallace Hogan when he signed his first professional contract with the Sacramento Senators in the California League in 1900, and picked up the nickname “Happy.”.

The Berkeley Daily Gazette said:

“He was dubbed “Happy” by the writers because of his sunny disposition.”

He become an extremely popular West Coast baseball figure and in 1903 he was still with Sacramento when they joined the Pacific Coast League, the league in which he played and managed for the next 12 seasons

While never a great player, he was considered a good catcher and infielder but he was a career .186 hitter; The San Francisco Chronicle called him “The most popular figure,” in the Pacific Coast League.

After playing for the Tacoma Tigers, Fresno Raisin Eaters and Los Angeles Angels, Bray was named manager of the new PCL franchise, the Vernon Tigers in 1909; Vernon finished last, but Hogan’s team, which moved to nearby Venice, improved each of the next 5 years and finished in 2nd place twice.

The Chronicle said:

“Taking a new club in a league of the highest minor classification…is quite a job.  Hogan made good with a bang, or his club has always been in the running and in addition it has always been a big attraction.”

The Associated Press said:

“(Hogan) is a human dynamo when on the baseball field.  The present position of the Vernon club in the pennant race is due mainly to his dynamic personality…Baseball players say Hap is the fairest manager in the league and that he treats his men better than any other coast league impresario.”

The Tigers got off to a great start in 1915 and were in first place on May 9, an off day, when Bray went swimming at Venice beach and “He contracted a severe cold and pneumonia set in.”  He missed several games, but “While it was reported several times that Hogan was in serious condition, it was confidently expected that he would pull through it all right.”

He did not pull through and died on May 17 at 37-years-old.

The Associated Press said of his funeral:

Roy Hitt, Doc White, Walter Carlisle, Dick Bayless, Frank Decanniere and Johnny Kane are the players who acted as pallbearers.  The other members of the club and prominent men in baseball acted as honorary pallbearers.  While the throng at the funeral viewed for the last time the face from which even death could not efface the famous smile, every baseball game played in the Coast League halted for five minutes, the stars of the diamond in many cities on the Coast stood with bared heads in silent prayer for the dead star. In accordance with Hogan’s wishes, the body was cremated.”

Wallace Louis "Happy Hogan" Bray 1912

Wallace Louis “Happy Hogan” Bray 1912

The Tigers went into a tailspin under new manager Dick Bayless, while they recovered in the second half the team finished 4th.

A benefit game was played to raise money for Bray’s widow on June 25 at Washington Park in Los Angeles.  The Sporting Life said:

“In the most remarkable tribute ever paid to the memory of any man in Los Angeles, 10,000 persons choked the stands.”